Mar 05, Colombo: More than one-third of female homicides in Sri Lanka are related to intimate partner violence, and Women have not looked for help of justice or law enforcement in most cases as 69 percent of such incidences go unreported, a United Nations study revealed today.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) conducted the first study of its kind in Sri Lanka to understand the contributory factors of unnatural deaths from a gender perspective.
To mark International Women's Day in Sri Lanka and to launch the brief report of the findings of the study, UNFPA together with the University of Kelaniya convened a panel discussion in Colombo; with the presence of Ms. Ritsu Nacken, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka.
The panel discussion was chaired by Professor of the Department of English of Kelaniya University Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe. Other panel members included and Prof. Anurudhdhi Edirisinghe - Principle investigator and Professor of Forensic Medicine, University of Kelaniya, leading the research, Dr. Subhangi Herath - Senior Lecturer of the Department of Sociology, University of Colombo and Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Professor of Law, Emeritus, University of Colombo.
Speaking at the event, Ms Nacken said gender-based violence is not only a violation of individual women's and girls' rights. The impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, and the fear generated by their actions, has an effect on the entire society. "Despite the extensive work done by the government, women's organizations, the UN and other partners, victims of violence often lack access to essential services that support their safety, health and access to justice."
In December 2015, the UNFPA commissioned a national study on unnatural female deaths in Sri Lanka. Conducted with the University of Kelaniya, the UNFPA study focused on unnatural female deaths in five provinces in the country.
An 'unnatural death' is said to occur as a result of external causes such as injury, trauma or poisoning where the manner or circumstance could be homicidal, suicidal or accidental, or at times even undetermined.
The study revealed that more than one-third of female homicides in Sri Lanka are related to intimate partner violence, and 69 percent of such incidences go unreported. Findings also revealed that physical trauma is the leading cause for hospitalization in Sri Lanka.
According to the study, in 36 percent of homicides alleged perpetrator was the legal husband/lover/ex-lover while in 21 percent a blood relative. Out of the 243 homicides reviewed in the study, 128 of the cases identified the perpetrator as the legal husband. Only 8 percent of the deceased women had reported intimate partner violence (IPV) to law enforcement agencies at least once while 3 percent had reported more than 3 times.
At the end of the 3-year study, it was found that only 30 percent of the homicide cases had reached the High Court; while the average time period for conclusion of cases is 3 years from the time a case is filed.
In light of the findings, the study aims to describe the problems associated with the judicial processes and outcomes relating to unnatural female deaths. It further aims to provide policy inputs and guidelines to address problems associated with the investigation and judicial processes relating to the issue.
At the panel discussion, UNFPA also presented a policy brief on the 'Reportage of Unnatural Deaths of Women and Girls in Sri Lankan Newspapers'. The policy brief explored ways in which media reportage of the issue breach ethical guidelines on reportage; highlighting the importance of sensitive and responsible reportage by the media,